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An interview with forestpixie

Those who have followed our interviews for a while will recall that we like to highlight people from many different backgrounds, levels of technical proficiency, and experience with Linux. Why? Because this gives a real cross section of one of the more beautiful aspects of the Ubuntu community–we are a well-rounded and diverse bunch with perspectives and backgrounds that are not as common in other Linux communities as a result of the focus on accessibility to technology that has always been at the forefront of the Ubuntu philosophy of Linux for Human Beings.

Okay, it is time for our first interview victim, *ahem* I mean volunteer, in this project’s new location. Today we highlight forestpixie, a man who was originally hesitant to be interviewed because he didn’t feel he had an adequate geek status, and who I felt should be included for just that reason. Kev represents one of the many sorts of people whom we welcome in the Ubuntu Forums, and in the larger Ubuntu community; people who want their computers to “just work” securely, easily, and well. Enjoy!

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

Hi, my name is Kev, I’m a 45 year old atheist and divorced unfortunately; I have 3 children, 2 of who are quite grown and have flown the nest – the other is 8 and lives with me, so I am one of the ubiquitous UK single parents. At the moment I am trying very hard to get back into the workplace after 4 years out – although I’m trying to change profession as well. I apprenticed straight out of school as an aircraft wireman and over the next 20 years I worked in similar fields ending up at a small company making harnesses for some quite diverse customers – from small personal hovercraft to sports cars.

I live in the south of England close to the New Forest, which is a forest in the King’s hunting ground sense. It has very little in the way of trees and is in fact for the most part lowland heath – some of the UK’s 20% of the global lowland heath environment left.

About 8 years ago I was made redundant, again, but rather than look for work I took the chance to further my education, as I’d not been able to do so when I left school. So I enrolled in a degree course at a local university and did Heritage Conservation, using my knowledge of the area I live in when it came to write my dissertation, one of my local Wildlife Trusts provided me with an area to work in and they have my research on restoring heathland. Since then I have tried to keep my mind active with various courses at my local college while my youngest was growing up, now she is old enough for me to carry on with the rest of my life.

My only real hobby at the moment is playing around with the 3 ‘buntus and trying to learn more about it.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I’ve never got into programming any computers, when Commodores and the like appeared in the early 80’s I was not interested in them, so I’ve only ever used computers as tools. Though I think I might start to look at programming, just to see what it’s about really.

Computers came quite late into my life, I suppose I first used computers when I started my apprenticeship – we used  tape run DITMCO testing equipment to emulate the rest of the aircraft wiring. Once I left there I had little to do with computers until a company I was working for started to use a DOS based production software, it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I bothered at all at home – although the first one I did have I built myself, since then I’ve become  a bit more involved as I have ended up being maintenance for family and friends.

I remember when I started to look at Linux, in fact one of the first I looked at was Dapper Drake, at the same I got  Debian, Gentoo (not knowing 🙂 ) and Fedora discs through a website somewhere – at the time I was using a USB modem – I tried, I really tried, probably not for long enough though,  then gave up. Then I downloaded Topologilinux to run inside windows, I guess that maybe came before wubi – my word that was fun, anyway I really couldn’t get my head round the commands needed to get the modem to run and I wasn’t too sure about changing the firmware, so I left it all alone for another day.

Another day came when I changed to a router and I tried the Dapper cd again, it connected to the net without any problem, so I downloaded Feisty from windows and dual booted for a while before I finally got rid of windows completely.

The next step will probably be to look at different distros, maybe some of the ‘harder’ ones – just to see if the grass really is greener…

3. When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I became involved in the forum on the first day that I installed Feisty – I needed a question answering after I installed it and found the answer quite quickly with a search, shortly after followed my first threads – one a real question, the second on how to bump, it was the first time I’d used a forum and really couldn’t work that out.

I have no formal role on the forum, in common with most of the users there, but I do visit very regularly during the day and when I can help I do so; I haven’t yet got the knowledge to deal with the more exotic problems so reading the replies on these is good for me as well. Of course following other peoples problems should enhance your own understanding – although nothing beats having a broken system which needs to be fixed as a learning tool.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

No I’m not and don’t plan to become one, at least not in the foreseeable future.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

Are all the *buntu’s different distros? I regularly use Ubuntu as I prefer it to the others, I do have Kubuntu and Xubuntu installed as virtual machines which I use to play with both for me and to use when I’m trying to help others. I will be installing Intrepid on a spare partition in the next week or so, to look at that and maybe get a bit more involved.

The software I use most are music players – which is currently a bit of a bugbear for me – Pulseaudio seems to have thrown Amarok a bit and it pops and crackles more than a bowl of cereal – so I’m using others – and Exaile, Banshee don’t like starting from where playlists were stopped. At the moment I’m using Audacious which does what it says on the box without any extra noise thrown in 🙂

OpenOffice wasn’t new to me as I was using it long before I finally turned up at the door here – at the moment I have OO2 installed but have been using the OO3 beta for a couple of months now with no hiccups. Firefox is the same, I used it in windows – although I have to say it hasn’t been a bed of roses since Hardy and I’ve now gone to Opera for the time being, perhaps I’ll not bother with it again.

I don’t have a favourite application as such – although the music starts in the morning and goes off at night – computers and software are just tools to me, similarly I don’t have a least favourite application – although Character Map probably comes quite close.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

Other than the first helpful reply I received and first thanks I got for my help I think that my fondest and worst memory are inextricably linked – and those who know me will have a pretty good idea what is coming next 😀

In June I came across a thread where a user had sadly died and his widow was trying to get his account dealt with as per his last wishes, as it had no reply I replied and also reported it so that it would be moved and dealt with by those who can. One staff member moved it, then an admin closed the users account, and mine got caught up accidentally. I got logged of and couldn’t log back in – over the next 30 minutes I ended up with another 3 accounts trying to get to the bottom of what had happened as I kept not being able to log them in either – a catalogue of errors on my part that was.

Eventually, after a few days, I was told by matthew that they couldn’t bring back my old account –  sorry and all that 🙁 , so I’d now lost all my beans and my thanks and was left with a start date of June 2008, very few beans as most of the posts had been in the Forum Feedback forum, no custom title and I was now forestpixie2 and okthinkigivingup depending on my mood, forestpixie3 had the wrong e-mail set so I couldn’t get at the account 😳

So I was left not being able to access any of my old posts or threads which was a bit uncool to say the least.

Matthew did change my user back to forestpixie as a name – he also offered to put my beans back, but as they would revert to the ‘real’ new account count on maintenance it did seem a bit pointless, he gave me the custom title option back – so that’s good, and most importantly changed my start date to 2007 again. It was quite amusing really, one day people read my solutions as I had a whole bunch of beans ( even though they are meaningless) and had been around for a while, the next day with a start date of June 2008 and less than 50 beans I was roundly ignored.

But I’m me again – just plain old forestpixie – still with only a few beans, but I got my title and start date and as a bonus I don’t have a bean image on my user and I haven’t seen anyone on the forum like that !

So all in all it was quite good fun at the time and accidents do happen, if they didn’t they would be called deliberate, it was no-ones fault and I would go through the same exercise in the same way if I needed to.

So I hope that adminX, if it was him, doesn’t think in any way that I blame him – I really don’t, the most important thing was that the widow got her wish and for that I’m glad I reported the thread.

The support that I got from many users while I was in a state of flux was a real high point, it will always remain with me so for all of that and more – I thank you 🙂

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Quite a bit, I look after probably a dozen pc’s for friends, family and acquaintances – most of them have moved over after being left with a dualboot for a while – which makes it sooo much easier now I don’t worry quite so much about spyware and malware. One of the best has to be the one who is trying to get his head around vista after Win95 – he hates vista can’t get anything done, because he can’t find anything – he never had the gradual change through Win98, 2000 and XP, he loves using Ubuntu though.

I’m not much of a one for trying to push people towards anything though and while I’m quite happy to set up dualboots for people, it’s up to them afterwards.

As I get further in time from using windows myself it gets harder to remember the answer to phone queries , although maybe that is age, so the more of them who use Ubuntu the more likely they are to get a sensible answer from me, which I guess helps their decision along a little bit.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I’d like to see Linux get real access to hardware drivers from all suppliers, but I haven’t been around long enough to give a particularly insightful answer to that one.

I’d like to see Ubuntu flourish and grow generally, but I wish that the fascination with eye candy could be put behind the need to get more widespread hardware support; luckily I’ve not needed to try for wireless – but I do shudder at the thought of trying. I turn Compiz off, although I did have a little play around, so am not too bothered 🙂 and like my desktop to be nice and simple as you can tell. (Screenshot here.)

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

How about 2 things? Firstly that there are no ogres, the odd troll floating about, but mostly that it’s a friendly place where people will try their hardest to help, especially if you’ve tried to search for a solution yourself. Secondly – that ‘help I’m a noob’  is not very useful as a thread title 🙂


  1. Vadim P.

    Very nice! We do (and should expect) more people like you, but with a certain technical inclination, to join. You’re probably the best kind to connect developers and the normal users in their needs.

  2. John.Michael.Kane

    I would imagine there are many more forum members who might be hesitant to be interviewed because they do not feel they have an adequate status.

    As always, it was an interesting interview.

  3. Dr Small

    Interesting interview. Sorry to hear about that skiff of your accounts though.

  4. Bruce M.

    Nice interview. Glad to see you here with us at Ubuntu. Glad to hear you helped with the last wishes of a user here even though it cost you some beans. You can have half of mine.

    Have a nice day.

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